New York, 19 January 2011

Statement by H.E. Mr. Ivan Barbalić, Ambassador of Bosnia and Herzegovina to the United Nations
at the UN Security Council Open Debate
on Post-conflict Peace-building: Institution Building

I would like to thank Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, Vice-Prime Minister of Timor-Leste, His Excellency Jose Luis Guterres, and the Chairman of the Peacebuilding Commission, His Excellency Peter Wittig, for their briefings.

Having come to recognize that institution building plays a crucial role in preventing renewal of conflict, Bosnia and Herzegovina convened this debate to ensure that post-conflict institution building, as such, becomes one of the priorities on the Security Council’s agenda. We hope today’s debate will highlight the importance of a more effective and coherent international response to this complex and challenging task.

Given, among others, my country’s experience, I would like to draw your attention to a few key issues.

Building accountable, legitimate and resilient institutions should be a strategic objective from the early stages of a peacebuilding process. The traditional approach leaves institution building for a later stage, focusing first on providing humanitarian relief and rehabilitation assistance. However, it is usually too late to start developing institutional capacities when peacebuilding efforts are at the end stage. The immediate post-conflict period offers the greatest opportunity to strengthen the institutional capacities needed to see peacebuilding efforts through.

Priority has to be given to the development of those institutions which will prevent relapse into conflict and secure the survival and renewed credibility and legitimacy of the state. While specific institutions that should be given primacy will vary from country to country, certain institutions are crucial to consolidating peace regardless of the country context, and significant efforts should be invested in their development. They are: (1) institutions carrying out political functions (implementing peace agreements, carrying out elections, resolving political disputes peacefully, making and implementing laws and regulations); (2) security and rule of law institutions; (3) public finance institutions; and (4) institutions entrusted with economic revitalization and delivery of basic services.

The post-conflict institution building process should be carried out on the principle of the rule of law. All international and domestic actors in the process should fully respect a post-conflict country’s constitution, its internal legal order, its international agreements, rights, and obligations, including the peace agreement that ended the conflict, as well as all other applicable principles and norms of international law.

The success of post-conflict institution building critically depends on forging a partnership between the international community and a post-conflict society that is based on a set of shared goals. When domestic and international stakeholders build consensus on a set of common goals, achieving those goals itself becomes a driving force for institution building. This in turn stabilizes a post-conflict society by bringing all stakeholders to collaborate on a shared agenda until the risk of relapsing into conflict is eliminated.

Given the weakened and vulnerable state of post-conflict countries, the international community may initially have to assume much of the responsibility for post-conflict institution building and, in certain cases, set up transitional institutions that carry out functions and provide services that would otherwise be rendered through domestic capacities. However, the objective of institution building should be to progressively reduce dependence on the international community and promote self-reliance by creating stable, viable, and responsive domestic institutions. National ownership is a conditio sine qua non for the establishment of effective institutions and the securing of sustainable peace. The transfer of responsibility from the international community to domestic actors and institutions is a very delicate and extremely important task that should be carried out in a gradual and timely manner. Installing transitional administrative mechanisms by the international community should go hand in hand with enhancing the capacity of domestic institutions.

Peacebuilding missions should be allowed more flexibility in adjusting their institution building activities in order to account for changes and developments on the ground. Coordination between the Security Council mandated missions and country teams, including development agencies and donors, must be clearly defined in order to avoid redundancy and overlapping. Assessments of institution building process in regular reports of the Council-mandated missions need to be improved. This should also be taken into consideration when drafting resolutions for renewing mission mandates or peacebuilding configurations.

The Security Council should make greater use of the advisory role of the Peacebuilding Commission, in particular with regard to development of viable and accountable institutions, in supporting domestic stakeholders in the countries on its agenda, identifying priority institutions to be developed, and determining existing capacity gaps that require immediate and long-term support from the United Nations and the international community as a whole.

In closing, allow me to offer two examples from Bosnia and Herzegovina. The first is our defense reform, which started in 2003 and resulted in the unified, modern armed forces that are operating under civilian command and with democratic oversight in accordance with commonly adopted standards. Several factors greatly contributed to the success of this process: political will and consensus of domestic stakeholders in the first place, followed by extensive consultations, involvement of all relevant domestic and international stakeholders, proper and well-executed strategy, clear and coherent standards, good timing and sufficient level of financing. The second is our electoral process, which was, in the first few post-Dayton years, organized with the extensive support of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe. The responsibility for the electoral process was gradually transferred to domestic authorities, so that Bosnia and Herzegovina today has the full ownership of this process and the capacity to conduct fair, transparent, and credible elections.

I would like to conclude by stressing that coordinated, rapid action to support post-conflict governments in building credible and accountable institutions is of critical importance to the success of a peacebuilding process as a whole. If properly executed, such action helps restore security, legitimacy, accountability, and effectiveness, thus delivering clear peace dividends. Post-conflict institution building is a complex and demanding process, involving multiple stakeholders and the need to balance between achieving short-term results and long-term capacity development. Searching for optimal solutions that achieve synergy in this multifaceted endeavor never ends.

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